July 18, 2009
I have arrived in Laos... actually I arrived a couple of weeks ago, but due to an aversion of slow internet cafes, I have just now begun my blog adventures. So I thought that I would just do little installments when I can.
One of the most amazing thing about Laos is the fact that there are monks wandering around everywhere in their brilliant orange outfits. Even at the university I'm working at, there are monks wandering around, while the average everday tourist can wander right into a monastery where monks are living, bathing, eating, praying - and get a glimpse at life that is mostly hidden in our society.
I woke up at 5:30am in Luang Prabang, my second day in Laos, and wandered through the misty rain watching the city wake up. People lined up along city streets with baskets of food, rice, and candy to offer to the monks. This happens daily, and in a place like Luang Prabang where there is a Vat (monastery) on every street, the morning alms giving ritual is one of the most stunning aspects of the city. There are men of all ages, right down to 5 and 6 years old, who are willing to dedicate at least 3 years of their life to one of the most humble existences i've yet seen. Women must kneel in front of the monks, and everyone removes their shoes as they pass by. The dedication it would take to get up every morning to make offerings is pretty signficant.
I rode by bike around during the afternoon, and slowly took in the rituals that make up the monk's life. Around 4pm, drums begin to sound around the town. Several monks gather around massive gongs and mark the passing of their day. Then there is a time of meditation, when families gather in the temples to pray. I wandered into one temple and sat in the back with the ladies. I sat facing these monks for over an hour, wondering what they were thinking....